Police State Gears Up - WhoWhatWhy

Police State Gears Up

Reading Time: 4 minutes
BearCat in Boston lockdown

BearCat in Boston lockdown

If you’re a small town or perhaps a university security department, the US Department of Defense has got a deal for you!

Thanks to the ending of the Iraq War, and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has 11,000 heavily armored vehicles that it has no use for.  Called MRAPs—Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected—they are designed to protect against AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs. And as pitchman Paul Richards used to say of the ’69 Pontiac Firebird, “They’re practically giving them away!”

Correction, they are giving them away.

Nashville, TN, Police BearCat

Nashville, TN, Police BearCat

All a local police department has to do to get itself an 18-ton MRAP—which originally cost taxpayers between $400,000-$700,000 complete with gun turret and bullet-proof windows—is send a few cops to pick it up and pay for the gas.

There are a few downsides: the things get only five miles to the gallon, can’t go over most bridges, or under them, and have a nasty habit of tipping over on rough terrain.

For departments that find them too unwieldy, the Homeland Security Department is also offering grants to communities so they can buy smaller Lenco BearCats, lighter armored military-style vehicles that run about $280,000.

Since last summer, police departments across the country have taken possession of 165 DOD surplus MRAPs, and there are another 731 requests for the 14-foot-high vehicles. Even Ohio State University police got their hands on one, saying it would provide a “police presence” at football games.  Most of the rest of the vehicles to date have gone to smaller community police forces—everywhere from Farmington, NM (pop. 45,000) to Hamburg Village, NY (pop. 9,500).

The number of BearCats purchased with Homeland Security grants isn’t readily available, but they were on conspicuous display in and around Boston last year during the metro-area-wide martial law lockdown while police and National Guard searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the wounded and unarmed 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Police BearCat and automatic weapons, Boston lockdown

Police BearCat and automatic weapons, Boston lockdown

For the most part, Americans don’t seem to question the use of military vehicles by their local police, but some communities are starting to object. In Concord, New Hampshire, for instance, 1500 residents last fall signed a petition opposing their town’s use of a $258,000 federal Homeland Security grant to purchase a BearCat for the local police department.

The Concord Monitor reported that most of those opposing the purchase said they feared further militarization of their local police. Despite the opposition, the town government went ahead with the acquisition anyway.

Beating the MRAP

Enter State Representative J.R. Hoell, a libertarian Republican who represents Dunbarton, NH, just outside of Concord. Hoell recently introduced a bill, the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, in the state legislature.

The proposed legislation is now in committee. If it’s passed and signed into law by the governor, state and municipal agencies in New Hampshire will be barred from buying or even accepting free offers of “military style equipment” for police use, except with the approval of the assembled citizenry at a public town meeting.

That prohibition would include not just MRAPS and BearCats, but also things like fully automatic weapons or anything that is not “available in an open commercial market.” These restrictions would not apply to the National Guard.

Rep. Hoell spoke to us about his bill.


WhoWhatWhy:  Why did you introduce this bill?

Rep. Hoell:  I introduced the bill because the citizens of Concord were overwhelmingly opposed to their police department having MRAP vehicles and it was ordered anyway. I don’t see any reason for police to have armored vehicles, or even fully automatic weapons.

WhoWhatWhy: Why are you opposed to police having military equipment?

Rep. Hoell:  The role of the state is to make sure the citizens have the best law enforcement and not one that’s overly militarized. Whatever happened to police wearing blue? Now they are dressed in black, head to toe, and when they go to serve warrants at people’s homes, they break the door down, and they wear masks.

WhoWhatWhy:  Why the masks?

Rep. Hoell: I don’t know, maybe it’s a military thing. But it is not community policing.

WhoWhatWhy: What kind of support are you getting for this bill?

Hoell: I’m getting support from citizens of the state across the political spectrum.

WhoWhatWhy:  Why do you think police in this country are becoming increasingly militarized?

Rep. Hoell:  I can’t speculate about why this is happening, but I know that the citizens don’t want it. It needs to stop.

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27 responses to “Police State Gears Up”

  1. Avatar Roman Law says:

    The militarization of police forces in the United States reflects the normalization and prevalence of violence in our culture. This is the reason why most residents in towns and cities have not overwhelmingly opposed it. Because our desensitization towards violence is part of our accepted everyday life.

    Only when the majority of people in the U.S. become fully aware that violence is a clinically dysfunctional and conditioned deviant behavior, will society be receptive to non-violent alternatives.

  2. Avatar Carpi Diem says:

    Citizens need to be just as armed as government law enforcement so that we can guard against tyranny.

  3. Avatar wildeyedliberal says:

    The reason the police need weapons of mass destruction is so they can be safe from all the criminals around them. They wear masks so their mothers won’t recognize them on the news.

    They smash down doors to “search” or serve a parking ticket because they have time constraints on them, because, as above, they are surrounded by criminals and knocking is inefficient.

  4. Avatar DavidTN says:

    This militarized P.D.’s have got to go. We are not at war. It is almost if the P.D’s are at war with there fellow Americans. This image sends a very bad message to all.

  5. Avatar uzza says:

    Where on Earth did the author get the idea that
    “For the most part, Americans don’t seem to question the use of military vehicles by their local police” ?
    Everyone I’ve ever talked to is appalled by it.

    • Avatar Desiree Booco says:

      When did american become nazi germany.what dose the stsue of Liberty stand for

  6. Avatar Jeff Grotke says:

    it is not the equipment that I fear. A policeman who is well-protected is less likely to think it necessary to shoot randomly (though they exhibited none of that kind of courage in California when they knew Christopher Dorner was hunting them). The thing to really fear is the fact the Court keeps giving them free rein to do whatever they want. There is very little left, at this point, of the right to privacy and the right to be safe and secure in your home.

  7. Avatar Jim B says:

    Thank you for covering this story!!

  8. Avatar KyKPH says:

    Many of these things will be sent to a scrap yard when they sit for 10 years out side the police station and the tires dry rot. When the City Council finds out the tires cost sever thousand dollars each and there is no federal grant to take care of that, off they will go.

  9. Avatar ICFubar says:

    As a youth I remember the local constabulary wanting to form a riot squadron, often denied to them as the over time costs to have the team on standby was seen as prohibitive…so the next thing you knew the police threw a riot at a rock n’ roll dance by pulling the plug on a band and making sure those in attendance knew who had done it…instant “riot” according to the cops as they started the batoning on a couple of girls knowing the boys would erupt, which they did: and the riot squad was formed. In this case the cops need not even provide the necessary excuse like…I can’t think of any excuse other than full spectrum dominance over the next PTA meeting. Maybe it’s small penis syndrome,… who the hell knows, but it scares the hell outta me to give these types any more lethality than the absolute minimum? The same with those people who idolize SWAT teams, they scare the hell outta me as no minds with a vote.

  10. Avatar 57343598876687 says:

    We live in a Police State that makes the cold war KGB look like amateurs.

  11. Avatar Kris says:

    Thank you for bringing this bill, Representative Hoell. I hope it passes and serves as an example for other communities.

  12. Avatar darrenlobo says:

    Junior, actually not much. The guy at Free Republic is wrong. The way to stay safe & free is to disarm the govt while arming & organizing the people. That’s why the anti-federalist Founders were so strong on defending the militia & not having a standing army. I gave this presentation on the subject:

    The Standing Armies of Yesterday and the Police State Today


    • Avatar Jeff Grotke says:

      that makes no sense. i don’t want any part of a government where “the people” is some mob of Tea Party nutcases. In my view the government is there to protect me against people like you.

    • Avatar darrenlobo says:

      Talk about paranoid. What ever makes you think that you need protection from me? I live by the nonaggresion principle http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Principle_of_non-aggression If someone wanted to violate your rights I’d protect even you, Jeff.

      BTW, the Tea Party isn’t my cup of tea. You must not know much about them if you think they agree with me.

  13. Avatar Orangutan. says:

    And yet this guy is being harassed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6roDPt1WYYY WTF is going on in this society.

  14. Avatar hp b says:

    Mr. Molotov ain’t famous for no reason.
    Designed to protect against RPG!!? Hahahaha! Yeah, right.
    I’m sure there are plenty of enterprising people who will supply all the RPG’s anyone might want and need.
    (RPG-29, made in Mexico)

  15. Avatar Bob Smith says:

    I wonder if they would give one to citizens who have formed their own neighborhood watch (police department).

  16. Avatar Dawg_em says:

    And what good would it do for police and military to turn on their own fellow citizens? They gotta eat and sleep some time.

  17. Avatar anarchyst says:

    You would be surprised. Research the “Liberator”, a single-shot .45 caliber weapon that was used against the enemy to procure HIS weapon . . . a much better rifle.

    • Avatar Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume says:

      Right on anarchist. The reason anybody wants a zip gun is to get himself a real gun. When SHTF, it won’t be long before our guys have field artillery.

    • Avatar hp b says:

      And the great equalizer – RPG

  18. Avatar erichwwk says:

    I suspect New Mexico State Police will be thrilled to add more firepower: http://bit.ly/1dWXTAz

    [ at San Francisco http://bit.ly/1bdvJGA ]

    “SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The man who oversees basic training for police cadets across New Mexico is defending his new curriculum, which includes giving officers more leeway to use deadly force.

    The Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/1dWXTAz) that Jack Jones, director of the state’s Law Enforcement Academy, has come under criticism since being given control in September of all basic training courses.

    Jones’ changes include more training in traffic stops involving gunfire and the use of possibly deadly force. He is basing his use-of-force techniques on a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found an officer can use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect if the officer feels that person could commit serious physical injury or even kill someone, Jones said.

    He said officers need to be prepared for any violence and that previous training models have been too restrictive.

    “Evil has come to the state of New Mexico. Evil has come to the Southwest. Evil has come to the United States,” Jones said.

    Thomas J. Aveni, a former police trainer and current director of the Police Policy Studies Council, a New Hampshire-based group that studies law enforcement’s use of force, said case law might not be a sufficient basis for an entire curriculum.”

    In Taos, my home town: http://bit.ly/1m1NFFD

    ” New Mexico made national headlines when a state police officer shot at a van full of children near Taos after the driver fled during a traffic stop in October. In November, a different state police officer shot and killed a Santa Fe woman after a high-speed chase, firing into her vehicle 16 times as she tried to flee. The second shooting was one of three fatal shootings involving state police in the course of a month.”

    In Santa fe from video cam of deadly shooting: http://bit.ly/1bePGNl

    • Avatar JdL says:

      Cops are creating self-fulfilling prophecies. When they act like hostile overlords rather than public servants, it becomes necessary for ordinary citizens to take defensive measures against them. In particular, when they storm into the homes of peaceful citizens, they deserve to be shot.

    • Avatar erichwwk says:

      No one “deserves” to get shot. Peace is not only the end, it is the way. This storming (ok, assassination) of peaceful citizens is not new [ http://bit.ly/1j841LM ] just getting worse. Before John Swomley convinced MLK towards non-violence, your suggestion was MLK’s take as well. Opposing evil with evil, as the DOD “giveaway” (and Jack Jones in NM) envisions will just make the situation worse. Difficult as it is, only non-violent opposition will make a lasting difference, IMHO.

      “If we harm other people, we harm ourselves” – Thich Nhat Hanh http://bit.ly/1j841LM

    • Avatar JdL says:

      Even Gandhi advocated arming the populace. I do not call for unprovoked violence, but until people practice standing up to cops, nothing is going to change.

    • Avatar erichwwk says:

      Agree standing up to illegitimate acts of “governments”. Agree also that Gandhi did not oppose the use of violence as a tactic on moral grounds, preferring that to “non-action”.

      some Gandhi quotes:

      “I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the
      cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw
      their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.” kindle

      His opposition to violence was based on its ineffectiveness as a LR strategy.

      “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only
      temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

    • “I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the
      cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw
      their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.”

      And yet so-called “patriots” continually tell us we have to “wake up” and “vote the bastards out!” Really? Voting IS cooperating with the existence of a government. They pretend there are two different factions and you voters pretend the same.

    • Avatar erichwwk says:

      It is my understanding that Gandhi was referring to civil disobedience, rather than “voting the bastards out” when he made that statement. There are certainly many “patriots” [Chris Hedges] that also do not see ‘voting” as a viable option, for the reason you suggest.

    • Avatar anarchyst says:

      “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt . . .”
      – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

    • Avatar Jeff Grotke says:

      they deserve to get fired, not shot, and to have their evidence thrown out of court. Unfortunately the Courts are finding all kinds of excuses to uphold these illegal searches.